Stalling of water projects to keep taps in Coast dry

Nguu Tatu, Mombasa

Residents fetch water from a borehole at Nguu Tatu, Mombasa, on March 16, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi residents will continue to experience acute water shortage after three main water projects worth close to Sh70 billion failed to take off on time due to inadequate funding and compensation wrangles

This is despite the projects having received support from President Kenyatta.

The Sh35 billion Mzima Spring II pipeline project, Sh20 billion Mwache dam project and Sh16 billion desalination plant were anticipated to solve water crisis facing the three counties,

Mwache dam, which was scheduled to start early this year, has been rocked by wrangles as 2,452 households and eight community and public institutions set to be compensated plan to petition the National Land Commission (NLC) for undervaluing their properties.

The locals accused NLC of coercing them to accept compensation of Sh120,000 per acre instead of Sh350,000 as earlier agreed.

Ms Uchi Mwero, a resident, said: "There is no willing seller-willing buyer agreement and we are coerced to sing to their tune, which is very unfortunate.”

When contacted, Governor Salim Mvurya said they have resolved to petition NLC through various mediums on their disposal to ensure citizens get what they deserve. Mr Mvurya said at least 609 affected locals out of 624 in the priority project area in Fulugani were coerced to sign the low rates against their will.

He added another batch of 736 affected persons in target area two were also made to sign the meagre pay. But yesterday, Mwache Dam resident engineer Simon Mwangi said the first phase of compensation has begun after resolving pending issues.

Mzima Spring II pipeline project, which is expected to pump 105,000 cubic metres per day, has failed to  take off  despite China’s Exim Bank board having approved the environmental impact assessment ready for funding. According to Coast Water Works Development Agency: “Exim Bank board had approved our proposal and what is remaining is the Attorney-General and Treasury to complete finer details, including the commitment by the government on what percentage it would contribute to the project.”

Previous estimates have put the project cost at between Sh35 billion and Sh42 billion.

The Mombasa desalination project has stuck at the preparation stage for four years despite the county assembly having approved it. The Sh16 billion desalination plant to be based in the north mainland at Shimo La Tewa has failed to take off due to lack of letter of comfort.

"The two plants were touted to be a solution to the perennial water shortage facing Mombasa County. They are currently at the preparation stage and are delaying because of lack of letter of comfort," said Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Company Managing Director  Anthony Njaramba.